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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Denver, CO
    Posts
    15

    Default Cross comb issues

    I've been reading the previous posts regarding cross comb, but I'm still not really sure what to do. I'm brand new and started this from a swarm, so I'm totally relying on reading blogs, watching videos and asking you experts!!! I have a unique situation where I moved my hive after about 5-6 bars of brood was built. Both at the original location and at the new location, I verified that my hive was level, but I still have cross comb. I'm moving the bees again 2 weeks....so if, how and when should I tackle this problem.

    After getting settled at the second location 4 weeks ago, they build several more combs for brood. I found some cross comb and double comb about 2 weeks ago. I tried to save it and reattach it, but it was so heavy and breaking, so I threw it away. When I closed it up 10 days ago, I thought everything was clean. Now, they have been building honey comb at an alarming rate, and when I went to check on them this weekend, I found a ton of crossed comb. I only made it to the third bar of cross comb when something happened. I have never smoked my bees and don't wear a suit--just gloves. I've never been stung or had a problem. I was trying to free the cross section from the next bar and the bees freaked out. I got my first sting and they were so angry that it took me 30 minutes just to close the hive afterwards.

    Here's my questions:
    1 - Does it really matter that I have cross honey comb? Can't I just pull out the multiple bars when I harvest in the spring?
    2 - If it's crucial that I fix this, is there any way to do it without smoking them? I thought they would have been more protective of the brood, but it seems like they are way more protective of the honey. Is that normal?
    3 - If I have to fix it and I have to smoke them, what's the best smoking method?

    Thank you in advance!

    Janelle in Colorado

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Moyock, NC, USA
    Posts
    207

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    don't be afraid to smoke them a bit.
    Just give a few puffs of smoke around the outside of the hive to make the bees go in. Then re-puff them when they start to come out and investigate. Set the smoker upwind from them so a trickle will float their way.
    If you plan on fixing the comb,..the sooner the better. But you can definitely leave it alone and just harvest it clear-cut style later.
    However they will build a crooked comb next to a crooked comb, so most of the combs that are yet to be built will more than likely be crooked.
    I don't wear a suit but I do smoke the bees a little. The smoke just blocks them from smelling pheremones which they use to communicate in the hive.
    When you say cross comb do you mean totally sideways or just crooked?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Denver, CO
    Posts
    15

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    Thanks for the reply! I wish I could draw a picture for you... I'll do my best to describe it. My top bar hive has peaks for them to build from. They seem to be starting the comb on one bar, then transitioning and finishing the comb on the second bar. If I pull out one bar, it will tear mid way through. I know this is the case on at least three bars worth.

    What do you smoke? My father-in-law (beekeeper in the 80s) suggested burlap.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Branson, MO
    Posts
    577

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    Here is my cross comb mess up http://youtu.be/nn9unz_3S5U and here is what I use now to attach the comb



    The cross comb was from over a year ago and after they were put back in straight and started building right they even fixed the balance of the crossed comb that I did not bother with because it had brood in it.
    It is all staight now and if you have straight comb to help with the starter great if not attach some comb straight on a bar and they will catch on fast.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Denver, CO
    Posts
    15

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    Thanks--I watched your video earlier today and was thankful that I'm not THAT crooked! I'm just trying to get up the guts to do what you did, or come to terms with the fact that I'm going to be a little off for the first year.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Moyock, NC, USA
    Posts
    207

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    you can smoke with anything almost.

    I have used pine straw, dried lemongrass, dried weeds from the veg garden, crispy leaves... whatever. fix your cross comb before that video happens to you.!!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Denison, Texas
    Posts
    510

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    My bees seem to be more defensive of the honey combs also. As soon as I hit the brood nest they calm down some.
    I would recommend smoking your bees. It doesn't traumatize them as much as you'd think.
    With your cross combing, the sooner you fix it the better. I use hair clips on brood combs. Honeycombs I take.
    How full is your hive? Can you move the crossed up combs all the way to the back of the hive?
    Maybe they will clean them out and abandon them. Or you can just cut out all the crossed honeycomb and feed
    it back to them inside the hive. Oh also, always at the least wear a veil, that's important just for safety concerns.
    A bee sting anywhere else but your eye won't blind you.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Canada BC Delta
    Posts
    435

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    What you describe Janelle doesn't sound like true cross combing. Your bees are curving comb off of one bar encroaching onto the next because of nectar/honey storage. Once the mid rib of the comb crosses over to the next bar it is cross comb. To get them back on track shave the curved part of the comb back to the bar the comb should be on. Using a top bar that is split in half clamp a 3" strip of foundation between the two halves. Place it next to the comb that you shaved back so that any new combs built beyond the foundation starter will be built off of its straightness. Look to see if the mid rib of your combs are offset of there guides. If so you should be placing spacers between the bars to get the combs built on the guides proper. The deep foundation strip will act as a barrier to give you a straight comb running down the center of the bar.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Denver, CO
    Posts
    15

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Ogborn View Post
    Honeycombs I take.
    How full is your hive? Can you move the crossed up combs all the way to the back of the hive?
    Maybe they will clean them out and abandon them. Or you can just cut out all the crossed honeycomb and feed
    it back to them inside the hive. Oh also, always at the least wear a veil, that's important just for safety concerns.
    A bee sting anywhere else but your eye won't blind you.
    Thanks Steve. I like your suggestion of just taking the honey comb and letting them start again with a clean, straight surface (once I get in my new location and make sure I'm level). I'm also going to take your suggestion of getting more protective gear. I've been timid to work the hive because I've got hardly any protection. I realize that if I am going to get in there and fix things, I have to smoke them and wear protection. I'm going to look around for a good online source for gear.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Denver, CO
    Posts
    15

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    Thanks Delta. I'm not sure I completely understand what you are saying. Are you saying that cross comb means that it's more perpendicular, and mine is just curving comb? I had a thought that it could be because they originally faced south, and now they are facing northeast. Just a thought.

    I do have spacers between the bars, but they just cross right over them to the next bar. Are you suggesting multiple spacers?

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Denison, Texas
    Posts
    510

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    I use the wood chips for BBQ smoking. You can get it in mesquite, hickory, apple, cherry, pecan, etc.
    I like mesquite. It's not expensive for one to a few hives. You can find it at almost any store.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Canada BC Delta
    Posts
    435

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    I'm not sure I completely understand what you are saying. Are you saying that cross comb means that it's more perpendicular, and mine is just curving comb?
    Yes.

    It's hard to know for sure without the visual of pics but if the curving is due to honey/nectar storage your bees are over extending the cell walls in the area of the curve. This in turn causes them to curve the next new comb being built around the previous combs over extended cell walls to maintain their bee space. It will also become worse with each additional new comb and will become cross combs if the bees are allowed to have at her. You shouldn't need to add more than one spacer and makes me wonder if the combs have been built well off center of your guides. True cross combs is the first comb built by the bee which will have its mid rib running across two or more top bars. A small amount of the cell walls that extend over to the next bar is expectable and could indicate the need of a spacer.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    BelleJanelle, it sounds like you have about the same problem I did. I've never heard the official definition of cross comb that Delta gave, but to each their own I guess. My bees were off like yours, but were crossing up to three bars. If you correct them, and continue to do so, they will learn and stop building it crooked. In fact, on one bar, I cut off about half the comb that was crooked, by just cutting a straight line from the bottom up to the bar. I rehung the removed part on a new bar using a hair clip. But what's funny, is that for weeks the bees did not build on that cut face. However on the rehung piece they stitched it all up, and now you can't even tell that it was a salvage, aside from the hair clip that I need to pull out.

    I have read as much as I can about fixing cross comb, but have found no correlations. I have not seen any proof to the theory that they build in a given N/S direction, or that having your hive off balanced even has an effect. Just look at a few pictures of feral cutouts, and you'll see that the bees tend to just start a line and run with it. I had wooden tongues on my bars as well, but the bees paid them no mind. The best alignment tool for straight comb is straight comb itself. As Delta recommended using the foundation as a starter strip. The bees will hopefully recognize that as a new piece of straight comb and follow the guide.

    What I did in my hive was fixed a few bars initially so it was good and straight. From then forward, each time I added bars, I would add them between two straight bars. This results in the two straight combs being the best guide you can get. Be careful with this method though that you don't stretch the brood nest thin. I was able to do it easy down here since there was not much risk of it getting below 70 degrees at night. Not sure what you can expect in Denver. But for the last few weeks, I have not added bars in the brood nest and have opened up the back of the hive for honey storage. For some reason they skipped a bar, and pulled a honeycomb about 2.5" thick! I had to harvest it out because I could not re-align it with the rest of the bars when I moved the bees to a bigger box.

    It's a shame you tossed that heavy brood comb. I wanted to cry reading that. I had one comb full of brood that was also too heavy for one hair clip. I cut it in half horizontally and rehung it on two bars. Yes you loose some brood as you slash the comb through the middle, but in just a week or so the bees had rebuilt the two combs and had two full bars, from what otherwise would have been tossed out.

    Just get the girls lined out and you shouldn't have too many more problems. good luck!
    After 20 months I'm over a 20 hives and growing. See my videos! http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8fVrmUsyYlRuASdX6UQk1g

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Denver, CO
    Posts
    15

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    Thanks for clarifying. I am pretty sure you are right--the first curved comb is in an area where there wasn't spacers because I thought they were still building brood. Now, I'm pretty sure they transitioned to honey earlier than I though and didn't have enough room because I don't have spacers in the brood bars. It's all making sense now... You have been very helpful!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Denver, CO
    Posts
    15

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    Tom- Thanks for the feedback. I'm totally new and I really had no idea how to save the comb. In retrospect, I probably could have done something to reattach it, but honestly, I feel like I have too many bees building too fast as it is! I just feel bad messing with nature. They obviously wanted that comb for brood and I stole it. Sigh...

    At this point, I'm anxiously waiting for my new hood/jacket to come in the mail. I'm ill-prepared to do major work in the hive until I have better protection. They have now almost built to the back wall, so I'm going to see if there is any capped honey that I can pull out of the middle to give them some room, then hopefully, I can also clean up and remove or straighten any other crooked comb. I'll get a few more spacers, too... Thanks everyone!!! You are invaluable!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,496

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    You may have too small a hive. What is the length of the hive? I'm surprised that they could have filled out a hive from a spring swarm. Those girls must really be working hard.

    You can pickup a cheap tyvec suit from a paint store and a cheap bug veil from a sporting goods store, but if you do that make sure the veil is plenty big and covers everything well. Dish washing gloves give great protection, nitrile gloves will give you great dexterity, both are very hot though. Bee gloves protect you great but you have no dexterity.

    On the otherhand you do have a general feeling of invisibility when wearing a proper bee suit.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Denver, CO
    Posts
    15

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    I have a golden mean hive, 28 ” L x 18” W x 10” H. I'm telling you--they are going to town. I checked last night and they are working on the initial foundation for the last bar.

    Thanks for the tips on the gloves. I need the dexterity and flexibility--those leather gloves are the WORST. I love the idea of dish gloves. I orders a cheap jacket/veil online, so it's not a "proper bee suit", but it will certainly create enough of a barrier to make me feel more comfortable.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,496

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    I've seen other posts from folks with golden mean hives that make me think they may be too small. (length, not the other dimensions) 42 inches seems to come up a lot as far as optimal length, and someone posted a while back about a 6 foot hive! You may want to consider getting together a larger hive that you can transfer into and use that hive as a nuc in the future. You probably dont want to hear this since this is a new hive for you, but you have got a serious hive going there. That is the one bad thing about top bars, when they are full you can't easily super them, although there are folks that do that as well.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,496

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    Btw, you should be just fine with an inspection jacket and veil, you don't need coveralls, just wear long pants.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    North Pole, Alaska
    Posts
    145

    Default Re: Cross comb issues

    Mann lake sells a hooded jacket for 59.99 minus 20 for first time buyers. I liked it enough I bought two lol. It does lend itself to ball caps more than no cap wearers I think for me at least.

    I had some comb jump bars initially. I pulled both bars removed the crossed portion and pushed it back on the right bar. I had little comb built and the bees fixed it up nice. I also have bars with the v point for them to build on.

    I smoke with rolled burlap. Had some in the shed works good smells funny though. I had issues playing with grass and starts, getting hot smoke. Bees didn't like it at all.

    I have two goldenmeans. They are going to town in one. The 2nd hive not so much. If I can get some time I plan on stretching the hive out. Have u thought about doing a split? Maybe start some nucs to over winter for next year?
    Last edited by AkDan; 06-22-2012 at 01:29 PM.

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